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Imagine you’ve been rough sleeping for so long, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a home. A temporary housing situation might feel like a good idea, but is it enough to plan for a better future?

If a homeless individual is placed in a temporary housing situation but isn’t provided support past that point, their trust in the organisations and support services that exist to help them can start to dissolve. They are less likely to feel optimistic or hopeful about changing their situation for the better and might “choose” to return to the streets.

Taking care of our homeless whānau when it’s easy or convenient for us isn’t enough. The only way to make a real difference is by taking care of them when things are difficult or challenging.

Over the past decade, New Zealand has developed the highest rate of homelessness in the OECD world. According to estimates, more than 40,000 people are living in unsafe environments such as cars or on the street. Roughly 25,000 or more are living across the Auckland region. To get a more accurate picture of the situation in Auckland, Lifewise have joined a project called Ira Mata Ira Tangata, Auckland’s Homeless Count.

Here at Lifewise, we have a commitment to ending homelessness. We not only provide housing to people experiencing chronic homelessness, but also provide ongoing support. This way, our whānau need not lose faith in the system nor fall off our radar into even worse circumstances.

Why is housing so much more than a roof?

For some people, providing housing to those experiencing homelessness is a simple, quick fix. Arguably, there would be fewer people on the street. But if we want to save lives, then appropriate housing with wraparound support is the answer.

A safe and warm environment can help those with substance-abuse issues to overcome their problems. That’s when a house can become a home, a base from which people can start to engage with the community.

This engagement can begin at Merge Cafe where peer support workers are available for advice, motivation, or even just to be a listening ear.

Homelessness or rough sleeping causes mental and physical harm, and having a home and this level of support can begin to restore a person’s well-being. They can begin to access the welfare support that is due to them, start building a foundation of stability, and hope for a better future.

What is wrap-around support and why is it crucial?

Providing housing will only go so far without the right kind of support. Lifewise’s Housing First programme has been carefully co-designed with people who have lived experience of homelessness. People who have experienced chronic homelessness first-hand are the real “experts”, in that sense. This is why Lifewise provides – and advocates for – wrap-around support amongst Auckland’s homeless population.

Just a few crucial parts of our support services include:

  • Checking in regularly to ensure quality of life.
  • Providing adequate levels of food supply.
  • Encouraging them to report to welfare services.
  • Securing benefits and other, ongoing solutions.

We recognise that these are just a few parts of the much-needed support that will help end homelessness in New Zealand. We are focused on a long-term, strategic approach, rather than just a temporary fix that merely hides homelessness from the public eye.

How can we end homelessness?

To end homelessness in New Zealand, we all need to work together to look after our whanau. No single agency or organisation can be responsible for ending homelessness. The support of social agencies, businesses, the government, and the everyday person on the street is crucial to ending homelessness, not managing it.

By visiting Lifewise’s website online, you can find out all about our Housing First programme and discover Lifewise and our partners are working toward a complete solution – providing accommodation and support to those experiencing chronic homelessness for as long as they want it.

If you want to help, you can donate to Lifewise today. Your support will mean we can continue to offer real choices such as community engagement and nutritious meals at Merge Café and sustainable solutions such as Housing First. Together we can stop the growing number of people sleeping without shelter.